Saturday, March 27, 2010

Back to Bangkok!

After my lovely day with Pete I was kinda sorry to be leaving Phuket on Wednesday, even sorry to leave Patong, tho I wouldn’t stay here next time I come back, a wee bit too lively for me nowadays!

I was up early enough to get a bit of sun on my skin before having to get showered and dressed for my flight. I got my pal from next door to take me to the airport but not on the motorbike this time!

I was pretty blase for me, getting there a mere two hours before take off. The check in went smoothly, I’d definitely use Air Asia again, they’re no frills but no hassle either.

At Bangkok Airport I got my case and leapt into a public taxi, the drive into the city centre was pretty smooth, tho he got a little lost as we searched for the hotel. I wish he’d never have found it to be honest! What a frikkin dump!

It was one of those places that spent its entire budget on the foyer. The rooms (I saw three) were the kind of places you might go to kill yourself, even if you weren’t planning to do so! Take my advice folks and avoid the Baiyoke Suites Hotel like the plague! I was assertive at reception, and was given a full refund as well as a superior room at their 4 star sister hotel the Baiyoke Sky Hotel at the same price.

I’ll be honest, its not as nice or as handy for everything as the Heritage where I stayed when I first arrived here, I wish I’d just booked back there, oh well, we live and learn! It is kinda cool staying in the tallest building in Bangkok even if it is a rip off!

I’ve been darting about all over the place since I got here. My fave night market at Lumpini Park, Suan Lum, where I’ve stocked up on incense and eaten some great meals in the food court.

On Thursday the temperature rounded out at 101 degrees farenheit! So I wisely spent it in the trio of air conditioned Siam malls - Paragon, Discovery and Centre. I even got my teeth whitened for a fraction of the UK price in only an hour!

Thursday night saw me hanging out with the gap year casualties at the Khao San Road. Jesus! Half of these people weren’t born in the times of hippies or even crusties but there’s more white boys with manky dreadlocks than at yer average Levellers’ gig! It really isn’t big or clever kids, and if you aint got the price of a haircut or a bottle of shampoo then it’s time to go back home to your trust fund!

The 50 baht Padh Thai was pretty damn good tho. It was also the ideal place to book my trip to the Tiger Temple on Sunday. A fraction of the price of anywhere else and only to the temple, no floating markets, no death railways, nothing but the reincarnated monks! Perfect!

Friday saw me taking some sun on the 20th floor of the hotel. Perfect place for sunbathing as up here there’s a breeze which means I could stay out longer, I managed a whole two hours! Had a good old swim too.

The afternoon was spent at Wat Mahathat and the nearby amulet market, which in addition to selling a billion representations of the Buddha, also sells sunglasses and false teeth for some reason!

Everytime I go anywhere from this hotel I have to barter with the taxi and tuk tuk drivers, and it really gets boring after the first couple of times, you either pay way over the odds or agree to stop off at their "friend's shop" which is just some rip-off megastore selling over-priced souveniers and gemstones you've never heard of before - not even on QVC! So after the temple I decided to take public transport and got a bus almost the whole way back for 14baht! Then I got a 20 baht Sky train to the closest stop which still meant a walk of about half a mile, but as it was a cool 80 degrees, that wasn't a problem.

Blimey I am practically a local!


A Regular Dr Doolittle...

... that's me!

Day three in Phuket saw me being collected by my old chum Pete Harris and taken on a wonderful tour around the island.

Its so easy to see why he loves living here, the endless sunshine, the natural and unnatural beauty, and the people. It also seems to be the place people move to when they die!

We drove to three different temples including Wat Chalong, all of which were stunning, and sadly much busier than they were last time I was here. I suppose its a good thing that tourists are coming but makes it kinda hard to get a bit of peace you know?

On the way we stopped off to feed some bananas to some monkeys as you do, and having Pete means I got photos of me with them! They were angry looking buggers, but the one who was not only taking every banana I had but was also storing them in a plastic bag he'd found was kinda cool with me. I forgot Pete was there and went into my usual nutty thing of chatting away to the monkey like he could understand me! I think he could!

We also went to the Big Buddha, which is already awesome and will be even moreso when its completed. This wasn't even begun last time I was here and its the vision of one man, who's creating something rather amazing.

On the way down from the Big Buddha, we stopped off by a couple of working elephants and their keepers. This wasn't a tourist thing, they were on their tea break - the elephant union is very good - and Pete got some more photos. I even got an elephant kiss which was just the most joyful thing ever!

We stopped for lunch at Friendship Beach, at this gorgeous resort which I have completely forgotten the name of. Sat gazing out at the blue sea, the ceiling fans gently turning and catching up on 10 years' worth of life with a good pal, life really doesn't get any better does it?


Oh My God!!!!!!!!

My three nights on Phi Phi passed all too quickly really, tho I was looking forward to getting back to Phuket.

The boat trip back was pretty much the same as the one coming over but I wasn’t terrified this time. I knew what to expect and was actually one of the confident ones! I was hopping on and off boats like I’d been doing it all my life.

At Phuket Pier I jumped into a waiting taxi, its like Addison Lee but at a fraction of the cost! In next to no time I was being dropped off at my next hotel - Poppa Palace in the heart of Patong Beach - as always my heart was in my mouth as we pulled up. This one didn’t look like the Ritz on the website, but even so the outside left a fair bit to be desired!

I checked in and while it may not have been 5 star luxury, the staff were sooo friendly. They informed that they were overbooked in the standard rooms so I was being given a free upgrade to a deluxe room. The deluxe apparently being a balcony! I’m starting to suspect this is just a stock line that Thai hotels feed us to make us feel special! I asked for and was given a hairdryer and 600 baht bought me unlimited wifi for four days, which seemed a pretty good deal by hotel standards.

My room was cool in both senses and after I’d unpacked I headed out to see what the place looked like four years on from my last visit here. Before I made it out onto the main drag I nipped into the beauty parlour across the road and got my toe and fingernails painted for £4. The manicurist was shocked that I wanted bright red. I get the feeling perhaps only the ladyboys go for that colour. I was teasing her that I was a ladyboy and it ended up the pair of us singing I Am What I Am!

After that I wandered up to the main beach road. Holy shit! What a difference! It was only a year after the tsunami when I was last here but I thought it was pretty developed back then, it was quaint compared to how it is now!!!!!!! Where there was one Starbucks, there are now five! I have to say that made me happy after drinking shit coffee for so long!

I found a great place for dinner and sat well back so that I could watch the comings and goings. Boy was there plenty to see! Endless western men of a certain age (and older!) pawing at the Thai girls who were enduring their boorish company in order to pay the bills. Last time I was here it was all going on but the girls seemed happy, or maybe they were just better actresses. This time I didn’t see one smiling girl. Their body language was one of sheer revulsion at these creeps who think that for a few quid they can own someone else’s soul.

Apart from that tho, I was kinda happy to be in such a lively area, especially cos once I got back to my hotel it was peaceful, even tho all this madness was going on all around me. I even slept well, so well in fact that I didn’t even stir as my left arm became a buffet for a collection of mosquitos!
I woke up on Monday morning with huge red lumps all over my arm, they were itching like buggery too! After breakfast I headed off to find a pharmacist who could help me. I ended up in Boots! The more things change, the more they stay the same eh? He sold me some ibuprofen and some antibiotic cream. He said I’d had a severe allergic reaction to the bites but it wasn’t life-threatening. Thank god for that then!

The chemist was in a huge shopping centre called JungCeylon and it seemed as good a place as any to have a coffee and a wee, and from there I wandered around all the little shops and stalls in the centre of Patong. I got a cute little silver bracelet and that was it really. I was happy just wandering around, strolling on the beach, checking out the other visitors, and soaking up the rays.

I decided to take trip to the boxing stadium to see some proper Thai Boxing, and got the guy next door to the hotel to book me a ticket. He was a really cool guy and he made no commission on the booking, charging me only the face value of the ticket. He also said he’d take me there and bring me back, saying it was too far to walk really. I figured that was where he’d take his cut, but hey, we’ve all gotta make a living.

At 8.30 I went next door expecting to get into his van, but there’d been a change of plan. He was taking me on his motorbike! I was too shocked to say no, and next thing I knew I was climbing on and clinging onto his back like a spider monkey! It was the most thrilling thing I’ve done in a very long time! I loved it!

Almost as exciting was the boxing itself. I loved the ritual of it all. The matches were short and sweet, thus keeping it all interesting. We were promised blood and guts, but there was only one match where blood was spilled, and that was the one where a Thai guy whacked the crap out of an English bloke who was having his first fight. What an introduction! The English fighter was called Chris and he seems to have spent most his time getting tattoos and learning the pre-match dancing, rather than learning how to fight one of these fuckers!

The Thai guy got one good smack in almost immediately and from then on Chris was on the run - literally! There’s a live band playing during each round - traditional Thai music not “Eye of the Tiger”, but there was this weird clarinet thing, and while Chris was being chased around the ring I could’ve sworn they launched into the Benny Hill chase music! It was certainly apt!

There were six or seven fights which made it excellent value for money. There were even two women going at it - one Australian and one Russian - both of whom where pretty ruthless! The Russian punched the Aussie in the tit! Ouch!

At just gone 11 it was all over, and there was my pal waiting for me just like he said. To be honest I was more excited about the bike ride home than some of the matches, and unfortunately it was over all too soon. As I climbed off outside the hotel I went to give him some petrol money and he said no! He almost seemed offended bless him!

God I love this island!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Phi Phi Paradise

On my first full day on Phi Phi Don, I decided to take the boat taxi to Phi Phi town. I figured the more I braved these longtail boats, the better I'd be at hopping on and off them. That was the plan at least!

I checked out the breakfast buffet - not brilliant but the fruit was delcious. My new goal in life now is to find one hotel toast maker that actually works first time. From the 4 star gaff in Blackpool where I stayed while Dad was in hospital, to the 5 star place in Kuala Lumpur, to this little collection of huts in the middle of the Andaman Sea, there isn't one of these bloody things that makes toast as we know it!

Anyway, I had a slice of warm bread and off I went on the boat. I am getting better and the transfer to the slightly larger ferry was much easier than yesterday's. It took about an hour all told and I even napped for a bit on the ferry! The rocking of the boat lulling me to sleep. I also gave myself a talking to about the 'boat fear'. The worst that could happen is I fall in, well I can swim so what am I worrying about?

Phi Phi town had a proper dock and it was kinda how I expected it to look. Gazillions of young people on gap year adventures with enormous rucksacks, haggling over everything from hotel rooms to the price of a slice of toast!

There was a market which I couldn't resist. I found myself the proud owner of a pair of fisherman's pants and a lovely white linen top all for way less than a tenner.

I had a delicious banana pancake and a "latte" which was basically a cup of nescafe with some very frothy milk poured in it. I know I am so very lucky to be here, but goddam I do miss a decent cup of coffee!

I was booked on the midday ferry back, at 11.45 I made my way to the pier. As 12 came and went no sign of it, I did see a little boat arrive and leave but it was from a different dock and the woman specifically said to wait on the one I arrived on. I found someone to ask and of course that was my boat. This little wizened old man did something I never woulda thought possible, he phoned the captain on his mobile and got him to come back for me! How brilliant!

In the afternoon I found a little deserted bit of coast near the hotel and went into the sea. God it was so warm! I floated there looking out at the horizon and just used the time to be at peace.

Almost the whole of the next day was spent there too, but I did get adventurous in the evening and wandered up the beach till I found a little shack that was packed with both Thai's and foreigners. I got a seat and was soon eating the most delicious Padh Thai ever, and it cost pennies!

The place I stayed at - Phi Phi Natural Resort is in the most amazing setting, and the staff and resources are terrific, however the mark-up on food and drink is kind of obscene. It might even be ok if the food were good, but it wasn't. Shame really.


Life and Death Etc., Part Three

One of the things I forgot to put in my last blog kinda harked back to Part One where I rambled on about my deal with the EuroMillions God about if I lost the lottery I gained my Dad’s life. On the Friday night before he died I won the EuroMillions Lottery. I won a grand total of £14. Fucked up eh? Last time I make a deal with anyone!

My wonderful family came and picked me up from the hospital about two hours after Dad died. They were shell-shocked, in recent years they’ve spent more time with him than I have, having him over at Christmas giving him some brilliant days and memories, and taking care of his day-to-day needs. I know he was extremely grateful for all that they did, and there will never be enough words to describe my gratitude.

The next morning I woke early as usual, and with my practical head fully in gear, I got cracking. I dunno if he’d had a premonition or not, but about a month before his op, Dad pre-paid for his funeral. I cannot tell you how simple this made things! I rang one number and a whole system was set in motion. There were a million little things that needed to be done and I’m not sure I did them in any kind of order, but it helped me to get a sense of moving forward.

The funeral director Greta arrived by 9.30 and while she was young enough to be my daughter, she had such a warmth and empathetic air about her that I felt reassured by her just being there. She advised me on what needed to be done, and took care of everything from putting the notice in the paper to sorting some flowers. Dad wasn’t a flower guy really, so I went with white Chrysanthemums cos they were my mum’s favourite flowers. I knew she’d like that, and if she was happy, Dad would be happy.

She dropped me off in town and I did a few errands. but it was more about distracting myself than anything else. I couldn’t get the death certificates till Wednesday, and I wasn’t seeing the lawyer till Tuesday. Alison came over and helped me find the Louis Jordan track amongst my Dad’s ton of CD’s. He really loved his music.

I remember being here in Thailand four years and ringing him to see how he was. He told me he’d bought a BOSE sound system, but it was on a seven-day trial and if I thought it was a waste of money he’d send it back. I told him to enjoy it. Mum wasn’t keen on music playing, it made her hot she said! Him buying that was a sign he was looking on the positive side of things after her death.
Anyway, the week rolled on and stuff got done. His funeral was set for 8th March - exactly one month since I took him into the hospital to have his operation. What a month!

I’d had a lovely meeting with the priest, and as I wasn’t raised Catholic even though both my parents are, I’m never sure of “priest etiquette” so I just tried to not say fuck and treat him with respect. He asked if I wanted any Buddhist reflections in the service which I thought was really cool of him, but it was not about my beliefs, it was about my Dad’s.

On the day, the sun was blazing and it seemed like the right kind of day to celebrate a life fully lived. He would’ve been really pleased at the turn-out of friends and family, lots of whom I didn’t know, but all of whom lined up to tell me what a wonderful man he was. My cousin Barry’s daughter Laura read a piece she’d written about him which was the most amazing testament to his love of life. Way to go Laura!

As the crematorium service ended Louis Jordan began to play and I heard the laughs behind me of “the lads” three of my Dad’s old school friends. They used to play that tune on a Saturday night when they were getting ready to go out on the pull!

Typical Dad, leaving his mates with a laugh.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Life and Death Etc., Part Two

By Friday 26 February I was on my way back up North. I had gigs booked at the new Frog and Bucket Comedy Club in Preston - booked way back so that I could have a free weekend home - and planned to stay at my Dad’s flat. I got an early train and dumped my case before catching the bus to Blackpool Friday afternoon.

When I got to Victoria Hospital I was a bit concerned to see my Dad on the oxygen again. I asked him what was going on and he said they told him he had pneumonia! Nobody had mentioned this to me during any of my calls since I left on Tuesday lunchtime.

He was talking with a very raspy voice, having ripped the trachae tube out of his throat twice during the week. At least I could understand him now. I found a nurse and asked what was going on. She got the registrar to talk to me eventually and I was told that he did indeed have pneumonia and when I asked why nobody had told me when I’d rung in the morning he said it wasn’t diagnosed then. Hmmmm

I sat with Dad, holding his hand. He told me he was tired and that he’d had enough. I think he knew that he didn’t have long - knew more than me that’s for sure! I was still convinced he would live.
What I wasn’t sure about anymore was the quality his future life would have. I think his dream of returning to the flat and living independently was just that now, a dream. I believe now that he knew that too.

I left eventually, in tears, I had to get back and get to my gig. The bus back to Preston was one of the gloomiest journeys I’ve ever had, and when I got in I sobbed my heart out. I looked at the time and went to start getting ready “the show must go on” and all that. Next thing I knew I was on the floor. I must’ve collapsed.

I got up off the floor and rang the Frog to cancel the shows. I hated dropping them in it as such short notice but I wasn’t sure I’d even make it out of the flat.

I got into bed, took some sleeping pills and managed a few hours. Saturday I was up and out early. To add to my hassles there was no bus to Blackpool and the trains were fucked up too. I did get a rail replacement bus and dashed straight to the hospital to see Dad. His bed was empty, and a nurse told me he’d been moved onto the regular heart ward.

I took this as a good sign, after all he must be getting better right? Why else would they move him to a ward where he would receive less care? I eventually found him and my optimism was dashed. Jesus he looked rough.

For the first time I kicked off. I’d bitten my tongue when they fucked up the orginal op, I’d said nowt when they held off fixing that for 72 hours cos they thought he might die, but this was too much!

He told me he’d been awake all night, freezing cold and when he rang for the nurse nobody came. Well I made sure somebody came now! I demanded to see the registrar, and Dr Roberts the original surgeon.

Within an hour he was back on CCU and both of us were receiving apologies from Dr Roberts. He had no idea why Dad had been moved, he stopped short of saying that it shouldn’t have happened.
They upped the dose of anti-biotics and gave Dad a go on the nebuliser. His breathing was shocking. To think he’d started this whole fiasco cos he was breathless and they assured him he’d be fine after the intial op!

When everybody left, I held his hand, told him I loved him and told him that from this point on I was with him for as long as he needed me. I was gonna cancel my gigs for the forseeable future and cancel the planned trip to Thailand. There was no way I was gonna leave him to the mercy of these people.

He just kept saying he was tired, that he wanted to go home. He asked me to take him home so that he could die. He’d not eaten for two days, but I managed to feed him some soup and bit of ice cream, and we sat together sometimes in silence and sometimes reminiscing about the past, about my mum who died 4 and a half years ago nearly.

Eventually, he calmed and his breathing seemed to ease up. About 7pm on Saturday night I left him fast asleep.

I made sure the nurses knew to call me whatever time, if there was any change - good or bad - and they promised they would. They were gonna try some intense treatment with the oxygen and anti-biotics to blast the pneumonia out of his lungs overnight. I left the hospital with a heavy heart. Having been so sure he was gonna recover for the last three weeks, now that hope was gone. I could see the light in his eyes was dimming. He’d stopped believing.

Somehow I got home, on a coach full of young people all laughing and joking after their day in Blackpool. I was kinda numb and really exhausted. I remember getting to the flat and falling into bed. It was gone 10pm.

Sunday morning I was awake reading replies on Twitter when they were interrupted by a call on the iPhone from Blackpool Victoria Hospital at 6.10am. I froze as I answered it. There was a kind voice on the other end telling me that Dad was refusing all treatment and kept saying he wanted to die.

The nurse suggested I get over asap. I said I would but as I got out of bed I was kinda dawdling till it hit me that this was serious. I threw some clothes on and phoned a cab to take me to Blackpool.
By 7.30 I was at my Dad’s bedside, I could see he was determined to go. He was clearer and more lucid than he’d been for some time. He said he was tired and he wanted to die. I told him I loved him and that if he really had had enough, I wasn’t gonna try and talk him round.

He was the most determined I had ever seen him, it was really uncanny. He said he’d rather go back to the flat so that he could die there, and at first I gave him some b/s about how if he ate some breakfast he might be strong enough to go home. He just looked at me, and I said ‘Fine. The truth is Dad, if you die at home it means all kinds of hassle and extra paperwork for me’. He smiled and said ‘Ok then, I’ll stay here’.

In between visits from nurses and the doctor on call, Dad and I chatted about his funeral. The only thing he really wanted was “Let The Good Times Roll” by Louis Jordan to be playing at his funeral.
My cousins Karen and Alison along with my second cousin Carla came over from Preston. Alison was great. Somehow she hid her distress and had Dad laughing. Just as she has done all her life.
I’m not that close to my family really, mainly of account of me living away from Preston for so long, but I tell you one thing, at times like this they’re the best support in the world.

As the day wore on I realised that in my mind I always imagine life is one big drama after another, whereas the reality is, it’s lots of little events occurring one after the other, all quite simple at the time.

I expected my Dad’s death to be this real big deal, with a weeping and wailing and a gnashing of teeth etc., but it wasn’t. The nurses gave him a couple of doses of morphine during the course of the afternoon. Dad got quieter and quieter.

About 7.0pm I was sitting holding his hand. He’d not spoken for a while and neither had I. We were just there, together. He squeezed my hand so tight it must’ve taken whatever strength he had left. I wept silently but remembered what my Buddhist book of Living and Dying said about keeping things peaceful, so even tho I was kinda screaming inside, externally I appeared calm.

About 8pm his breathing began to slow down. He seemed to be asleep and all I could do was hold his hand and tell him how much I loved him, how I forgave him for the past, and thanked him for letting me be with him.

I told the nurses his breathing had slowed and they disconnected the monitor in the room to give us some peace and quiet. They could still see outside what was going on, but it stopped the alarms going off.

Over the next hour or so, his breathing got slower and slower and shallower and shallower. There was no drama, no fuss, it was like watching your iPod running out of energy in a bizarre way! At 9.15 there was no more breath. He was gone.

He really did look at peace and it really did look like he was just asleep, slowly the colour drained out of his face, but his arm stayed pink and warm for a good hour! I know cos I was sat with him, holding it.

His chest seemed to still be moving even though he’d been pronounced dead, and the nurse told me that when you die everything doesn’t just shut down all at once. This was the powerful force that was Joseph Smith coming slowly to a halt.

It might sound gruesome, but actually it was all rather beautiful. I am so glad I’d been with him for most of the last month of his life, that he hadn’t suffered too much, he’d been unaware of a lot of what he went through thank God!

At the end of the day, he was an 83 year old man who lived life to the full and then some! He died peacefully after a short illness. That’s how its meant to be.

Jason Wood, dead at 38? That’s the tragedy.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life and Death Etc., Part One

This is probably gonna be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. The last time I blogged about my Dad it was when I had dashed back up to Blackpool to find my Dad heavily sedated as his body had begun to shut down due to the slipped valve.

At the time, the surgeon wasn’t sure he was gonna pull through, but I felt he would. For one thing I had made a deal with God/Buddha/Whoever that I would forgo winning the Euro lottery that Friday night - and it was the £113 million draw! - if they would spare his life. When I checked my ticket I only had one number so that meant he would live. I know this sounds mad, and it is, but I’d had a recurring dream that I won £56million on the EuroMillions and bought a ticket every week since the third dream in a row. Ironically £56 million was the share of the amount the British couple won, so I was even more convinced that my Dad would be ok.

I spent that Friday night in a hotel near the Pleasure Beach, but was booked into the DeVere Heron’s Reach from Saturday. It’s a pretty swanky place, but the main reason I’d booked it was that it was about 10 minutes’ walk from the hospital. I dumped my bag there on Saturday and went into the ICU to see Dad. He had even more machines attached to him, and was out cold in a medically induced coma. I had a long chat with the nurse taking care of him and although I felt he was trying to prepare me for the worst, I knew my Dad wouldn’t die.

On the Sunday I called as soon as I woke up and was told he was a bit better. When I got in to see him in the afternoon, he was on one less machine and the decision had been made to fly in the surgeon from Italy needed to repair the TAVI. According to the heart surgeon at Blackpool, this had never happened here before and nobody in the UK was able to perform the op. Basically they didn’t do it sooner cos they didn’t think he would fight back enough to survive a second op.

Monday morning they did the op and it worked. The valve was now in the correct position, and hopefully his body would respond. It seemed to be doing just that, slowly they removed machine after machine, and as I extended my stay I was so sure that it was all gonna be fine.

The Thursday of that week, they decided to start bringing him out of sedation, and that meant replacing the breathing tube rammed down his throat with a trachae tube. This meant he wouldn’t be able to speak, but it seemed a small price to pay.

It took a while for him to start coming round, in fact it was Saturday afternoon before I got him to open his eyes. I’d sat there for two hours just chatting away to him and saying ‘open your eyes Dad’ about every third sentence. I guess it got through. I promised him everything would be ok, and I truly believed it would be.

Saturday night, I was in bed at 8pm - exhausted - when my mobile rang. Obviously I’d kept it on the whole time since my Dad went in for his op. In fact the only time it was off was when I was with him. As you can imagine I was hugely relieved when I saw my pal Ninia Benjamin’s name flash up. I figured she was calling to see how my Dad was doing.

That relief was incredibly short-lived as she gave me some news that even four weeks on I still cannot believe. Jason Wood was dead.

Typing that makes no sense. I’ve said it out loud and its like someone else is speaking. I think of how when I was there for my Dad, it was partly because Jason taught me how much family means - no matter what’s gone before - I’d planned to call him when things settled down a bit to thank him. Now that chance was gone. At 38, with what I believe was a brilliant future ahead of him, he’d done to bed after a great gig on the Friday night and just not woken up.

In theory its the perfect way to go, the problem is, it was about 50 years too soon for Jason.
On the Sunday morning, that news was still running through my head and I was still disbelieving. I got ready and went to see my Dad. He was awake and was mouthing words. Unfortunately, Dad has really thin lips “lips like a hen’s ass” as my mum so eloquently put it, so lip-reading was near impossible! I did manage to make out that he was tired and wanted to die.

With my heart breaking from the injustice of Jason’s death I kinda lost patience with my Dad. I explained that for whatever reason, he’d been given another chance, and that my friend hadn’t, now here was Dad wishing to throw that chance away! He seemed to understand and seemed to believe me when I told him what I’d been told, that he would be getting better, he was getting better! Every day there were fewer machines hooked up to him, and that became my method for measuring his recovery.

By the Tuesday he was recovering sufficiently for them to move him from CICU and put him on the Coronary Care Unit. He would still be closely monitored but was on his way out of this place!
I was confident enough to return to London after nearly two weeks up in Blackpool. A “wake” of sorts had been organised to remember Jason that night and I just wanted to be with other people who loved him and missed him. I thought it might make sense of what’d happened.

As I sat there listening to an array of Jason’s friends and family speaking from the heart about him, I sobbed. I’d not worn any mascara deliberately, and I know that Jason would’ve been pissed off with me for not making an effort. I just knew I’d be a mess whatever I did.

I was too upset to get up and speak, but it was a chance to think of my own special memories of him. His boundless kindness, his humour, his compassion, his love of life. What an inspiration he is!
A couple of my favourite memories of Jason illustrate his humour both intentional and unintentional I think.

When I’d had my gastric bypass and began losing weight Jason said to me “thank god you’re attractive JoJo, imagine being ugly and going through all that pain. You’d be thin but you’d still be ugly!” I laughed so hard that my new litte stomach ached.

The same day, he’d driven across London to collect me in that battered workman’s van of his, and then we drove back across town to the Tate Modern for a private view of the Gilbert and George exhibition that I had an invite to.

Jason wasn’t that up on art but he knew who they were and was looking forward to seeing the show. As we walked into a room that had a huge painting which featured the pair bent over pulling their ass cheeks apart Jason exclaimed in his campest voice “oooh I say! You couldn’t have that in your front room! Your mum would faint!”

When I had swine flu, Jason drove from Luton with a package of wellness formula capsules for me. He was terrified of catching it, so much so that I’d been teasing him about it only the week before at our gig at Up The Creek, but he still made that effort for me. He was funny tho as he rang my bell, dumped the parcel on my step and waited across the street for me to collect it.

God bless you Jason Wood. My life is all the better for having you in it. I just wanted more time with you.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Am Sailing

So then, I arrived on (in) Phuket yesterday afternoon and was met at the airport by my old mate Pete Harris. I didn’t recognise him at first and he didn’t recognise me! It was brilliant to see him again and to meet his fabulous wife Boom, which has to be the coolest name ever!

Pete used to run a series of comedy nights under the banner Screaming Blue Murder and he is responsible for my doing my only ever Edinburgh Festival run. Back in 1999 I was part of The Big Value Comedy Show. It was there that Stephen K Amos and I bonded - he was the MC - and 11 years later we’re still great pals.

Anyway, Pete lives in (on) Phuket now, and was kind enough to come and pick me up. He drove me to my hotel for the night, the Thavorn Grand Hotel in Phuket Town. I can imagine when it was built it was the last word in luxury, sadly that must have been at least 30 years ago. It was clean and my room was massive and the staff were lovely so there ya go. Even Ricky Martin has stayed here, so La Vida Loca was definitely on the cards!

Not for me tho. I did go out for the most amazing seafood dinner on a pier with Pete, Boom and Boom’s mum. It was almost a disaster as the plastic chair I sat in slowly began to disappear down a hole in the pier! We moved along a bit and I avoided being thrown into the Andaman sea!

Today I risked it again as I took the ferry to Phi Phi Don. I figured it’d be a nice big, sturdy ferry, and the first boat was. Unfortunately the closer we got to the island the smaller the boats we were transferred onto! I was terrified! Mind you as I removed my trainers to walk up to my resort here, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Another fear faced and overcome.

So here I am writing this in my gorgeous beach hut,

I’ve sunbathed, swum and had dinner, this truly is paradise! And guess what, tomorrow I’m going on the longboat to Phi Phi town! I’m a regular queen of the sea!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bangkok Baby!!!!!!

So much has happened since my last blog that I’m gonna work my way back from the present. It’ll make life easier I think.

I’m writing this from my “superior suite” at the hotel I’ve been staying at in Bangkok since my arrival on Monday afternoon. Once again I made most of hotels choices from the excellent site and this first one,The Heritage, is ideal for someone only here for a couple of days. Its within walking distance of PatPong night market (and the multitude of girlie bars behind the dodgy handbags).

There’s a SkyTrain station right outside which is essential if you don’t wanna spend hours sitting in the phenomenal Bangkok rush hour which seems to be 24 hours long every day. The air conditioning on the trains is icy and brilliant and just what you need with this humidity.

The last time I came here I weighed in excess of 20 stones. It was four years ago and I was on the waiting list for my gastric bypass. I can still recall the horrors of the flight, my fat ass squeezed into an economy seat for 11 hours was torture. I was also an extremely committed smoker then so the nicotine withdrawal added to my misery. The flight was also like an outtake from Cocoon, peopled with about 300 silver haired men, an assortment of Thai brides taking their western husbands home, me and my fat ass, and Chico from X-Factor who was on one of those paid for holidays that C-listers organise so that photos can appear in a selection of glossy celeb mags.

This time, my seat felt positively spacious! Thanks to my 18 months of yoga I was bendy enough to be able to curl up in it and sleep for 6 of the 11 hours. The rest of the time was spent catching up on movies. I watched Precious and The Blind Side and wept at both without any shame. The rest of the occupants were the same as last time - at least they looked the same, I suspect it was a new cast of characters as the previous ones were long dead no doubt!

Within an hour of checking in I was back out on the street exploring the area on foot, and within 4 hours I was the proud owner of a new “Chanel” handbag and a fabulous gold “Rolex”. Gotta love the bling baby!

In the days leading up to my trip I was following the news reports of the Million Man March of Red Shirts who were descending on Bangkok for a big rally on Sunday. I wasn’t sure if I would be flying into a war zone or not! I have to say, I’ve been here a couple of days and have yet to see a single red shirt! Did see a lovely red Louis Vuitton handbag tho!

Yesterday morning I was up and out early after my healthy breakfast of fruit. It was 39 degrees celsius, and I felt every one of those degrees just walking across the road to the sky train! Two stops later I was at the river side and boarding the ferry. For a grand total of 3 baht I was taken across and hopped into my first ever Tuk Tuk! What an adventure that is! I didn’t get in one last time cos I felt I was too big. Ironically I’d have been way more comfy. My boney ass was aching with every pothole!

I went to Wat Arun. It was my first time here and I always felt I’d missed out by not coming last time. Turns out not really. Its one of those places that’s more stunning from a distance. The stupas are a testament to the patience of the builders, but it seemed that the shrines were an afterthought.

I hopped on another ferry right outside and that took me to my favourite temple in the world (of the ones I’ve seen so far) Wat Pho. The enormous reclining Buddha was as glorious as I remembered it, the mother of pearl mosaic on his feet still filled me with awe.

I wandered away from the tour groups and found a deserted little shrine. It was there I was able to say my goodbyes to my dear dear friend Jason Wood, and my Dad. I know now that they are both free from any suffering. I shed some tears and afterwards I felt a warmth in my belly and a general sense of calm. Its all good now.

When I booked this trip, both of them were very much alive and well - as far as we knew at least - and I was more concerned with getting away from the nasty British winter than anything else. The deaths of these two men in the last month have meant this trip is taking on a very different significance. Life and death makes sense here.